By Doug Porter
It seems appropriate on tax day, given the annual media binge of gratuitous coverage of Tea Party protests at Post Offices and editorial cartoons demonizing the Internal Revenue Service, to survey the political landscape and make some comments about where we find ourselves in 2014.
The vast majority of stories you’ll see repeated by tax protesters on the evening news today are simply bullshit–not that any of these so-called “reporters” will actually fact check them. If some guy carrying a sign about the Muslim socialist in the White House screams ignorant slogans about the gubment, it must be news. Because “everybody knows” all these things they say must be true.
This year, the IRS will have fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since at least the 1980s, thanks to successive budget cuts sponsored GOP congressmen desperate for any means of undermining the Affordable Care Act. Forget about adjusting for inflation (or the increasing population); the IRS budget has declined by the better part of a billion dollars since Obamacare was passed.
For those of you wondering where you tax dollars are used, who pays what and how that compares to everybody else in the world, I suggest the Atlantic’s How America Pays Taxes—in 10 Not-Entirely-Depressing Charts.
Compared to the rest of the world’s modern economies, the US has the third lowest tax rate. Our effective federal taxation rates have actually declined over the past three decades. And the top .01% of (not 1%) of all taxpayers are the primary beneficiaries of the tax code’s largess. Oh, and the tax code really isn’t 70,000 pages long; the 2013 version tops out at 4037 pages. .
For the record, I’m officially broke this week, thanks to my hefty contribution to the national coffers that will be electronically leaving my bank today. But, hey, I’ve got my health…
FYI- Here’s WalMart’s Tax picture, courtesy of Americans for Tax Fairness:
Race to the Bottom Unleashed
The Supreme Court’s recent decision (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission) to toss out aggregate caps barring a single donor from giving more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and PACs in the current election cycle has started the financial equivalent of an arms race.
Via USA Today:
Political parties, election lawyers and some donors are racing to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the overall limits on what wealthy contributors can give to candidates, parties and political action committees.
National Republican officials recently launched the Republican Victory Fund, a new campaign vehicle that will allow a single donor to contribute nearly $100,000 to be split among the Republican National Committee and the two GOP campaign committees working on House and Senate races.
The free speech concerns of the wealthy so eloquently defended by Chief Justice John Roberts in the McCutchen case obviously trump any concerns about any other voices being heard over the din of attack ads.
Papa Doug’s Free Speech
UT-San Diego publisher (and developer) Doug Manchester lavished $42,413 worth of his free speech in the recent campaign led by the Chamber of Commerce against the city council’s proposal for increasing the linkage fee on commercial development to pay for subsidized housing last month.
Via Matter Potter at the San Diego Reader:
San Diego Chamber of Commerce honcho and ex-GOP mayor Jerry Sanders, the public face of a referendum campaign against the plan, proclaimed victory when the city council voted to withdraw the measure after opponents turned in 53,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Said Sanders in a statement, “The City Council heard the voices of small businesses and job creators in San Diego and voted to rescind the jobs tax.”
Now campaign-finance reports have finally been filed, and they show that among key financial backers of the referendum drive was U-T San Diego, the newspaper and online operation owned by developer Douglas Manchester, which the disclosure shows kicked in $42,413 worth of newspaper ad space to the campaign.
None of the newspaper’s coverage related to the linkage fee controversy indicated that its publisher was one the primary funders in the campaign against the city council decision, which was characterized as a “jobs tax.”
Study Says US is Now Officially an Oligarchy
The free speech definitions as expanded by the Supreme Court are likely an afterthought, according to a forthcoming study in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics. Authors Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin I. Page (Northwestern) conclude in their article titled “Testing Theories of American Politics that the United States is actually an oligarchy, contrary to common notions about democracy.
Here’s the money quote:
When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
Roger Hedgecock: Ignorance is Bliss
UT-TV’s Roger Hedgecock decided to go after Voice of San Diego’s coverage of Sea World yesterday, apologetically (I think because she’s a woman?) calling reporter Lisa Halverstadt his “Liberal Loser of the Day.”
Lordy, did he ever step in it. Apparently he didn’t bother to read the entire series of more than two dozen recent articles on the subject, especially this one by Halverstadt which specifically covers every.single.point. that Hedgecock accuses her of not writing about.
Congrats, Roger Hedgecock. You’ve earned the title without the “Liberal” descriptor.
Kensington Theater Closure Not So Simple
My teenage daughter, whose idea of a perfect 18th birthday includes attending a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Ken Cinema, had plenty of reason to be concerned yesterday as news spread via social media yesterday that operator Landmark Theaters was shuttering the location.
Here’s Scott Marks, via the Reader:
First the San Diego Opera and now this.
Here’s what’s known: I have it on good authority that Landmark Cinemas, the company that operates the theatre, was not able to renew the lease on San Diego’s venerable single screen Ken Cinema.
The Ken is set to close its doors on April 27.
A call to Landmark’s regional office and Torrey Pines Property Management, the company that manages the space for owners, the Berkun Family Trust, went unanswered.
NBC7’s coverage included a statement from Landmark:
Landmark Theatres was not able to negotiate an acceptable new lease on the Ken with the landlord, even as Landmark is interested to continue to operate the theatre and make improvements by installing digital projection, which is the current industry standard…
Ah, but it ain’t over till it’s over. Here’s Reader reporter Scott Marks on Facebook a few hours later, as quoted by (h/t) Martha Sullivan:
@ 5:52 p.m.: “I spoke with a CEO at Landmark. The chain did indeed give 30 days notice. They wanted to turn the venue into a state-of-the-art facility by spending $50K on a digital projector — something a first run theatre needs to stay in business — but the property owners refused to give them a 2 year lease. I’m meeting with the owners on Wednesday and hopefully this can be settled. And I spoke with Guy at length. Disappointed is a mild way of describing his state of mind.”
Fortunately, my daughter’s birthday is before the anticipated closing day.
San Diego Rents: Too Damn High
The New York Times has an article up that speaks to the rent affordability crisis in the United States, and it includes a list of twenty cities where rents are highest relative to media gross income.
San Diego ranks as the fifth most expensive city (41.4% of gross income) behind Los Angeles, Miami, College Station (Tx), and Santa Cruz. We’re even more expensive than the leftist loonies in San Francisco.
And then there’s the conclusion of the Times article:
Steve Gunn, 25, the marketing director for a Miami real estate brokerage firm, said he could certainly afford an apartment on his salary of $52,500 — if he weren’t paying more than $800 a month in student loan debt. Instead, he commutes 90 minutes to work. From his mother’s house.
On This Day: 1871 – “Wild Bill” Hickok became the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. 1989 – Students in Beijing launched a series of pro democracy protests upon the death of former Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang. The protests led to the Tienanmen Square massacre. 1996 – In San Francisco, CA, Jerry Garcia’s remaining ashes were scattered near the Golden Gate Bridge. A small portion of his ashes had been scattered in the Ganges River in India on April 4th.
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